Sorting Out Seasonal Allergies
Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion. Symptoms of the common cold or allergies? Without the intervention of your physician, it might be hard to tell.
Whether it’s fall leaves or spring blossoms that send you into a tailspin, seasonal allergies can make you miserable. By taking a few simple preventive measures, you can help reduce your sneezing, coughing and general stuffiness, according to Pamela A. Georgeson, DO, an osteopathic allergist from Chesterfield Township, Michigan.
Focusing on preventive care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to consider how environmental and lifestyle factors impact your health. They are trained to listen and partner with you to help you not only get healthy, but stay well.
“Allergies are an abnormal reaction by a person’s immune system to a normally harmless substance,” explains Dr. Georgeson. “Seasonal allergies—many times caused by pollen from trees, weeds and grasses—are triggered during certain times of the year, such as fall or spring.”
“For people with seasonal allergies, this pollen reacts with antibodies in the body, causing histamine and other chemical substances to be released, which then cause various symptoms,” explains Dr. Georgeson.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itching of the nose
- Post-nasal drip
- Itchy, puffy, red, and watery eyes
“Not everyone will experience all the symptoms of seasonal allergies,” says Dr. Georgeson.
How do I know if I have seasonal allergies?
According to Dr. Georgeson, the best way to determine whether or not your symptoms are caused by seasonal allergies is to visit your primary care physician.
“Your physician may see different signs during a physical exam that point to allergies, such as the appearance of your nasal mucous membranes,” she explains.
“The only true way to determine if a person has allergies, however, is to undergo allergy testing. So, your physician may recommend that you visit an allergist for further evaluation to identify what allergies you have.”
6 tips for avoiding seasonal allergies
Because seasonal allergies are caused by pollen that exists in the air, they can be difficult to avoid, but not impossible. Here are Dr. Georgeson’s six tips for avoiding pollen exposure.
- Keep doors and windows closed, both in your home and when traveling. Use air conditioning.
- Do not mow the lawn or go near freshly cut grass.
- Limit morning outdoor activity, when pollen is usually emitted—between 5-10 a.m.
- Take a vacation during the height of the pollen season to a more pollen-free area, such as the beach.
- Do not hang your laundry outside to dry, where it can collect pollen.
- Remove clothing and shower if you have spent a lot of time outdoors.
How do I treat my seasonal allergies?
“Avoidance is best, but often not practical. Some of the most common treatments for seasonal allergies are over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants,” says Dr. Georgeson. “However, if you take prescription medications, it’s important to talk with your physician before taking any over-the-counter medicines to make sure they’re safe for you to take.” Your physician may also prescribe steroid nasal sprays, which work to decrease inflammation, or administer allergy shots if the other options do not work.
In addition, Dr. Georgeson recommends that you schedule a visit with your physician if your allergy symptoms persist, affecting your quality of life.